Alisha Cunningham, M.Ed

Natasha Harris, M.Ed.

"The Lamar University online program provided me with the flexibility to set my own schedule for study and work in a way as to not interfere with my job and family life"

Degree Earned:

M.Ed. in Educational Administration online

Graduation Date:

May 2016

Job Title and School District:

Elementary Assistant Principal, Arlington ISD

Twitter Handle:@nepps82

How has this degree affected your professional outlook? What about personally?

The opportunity that the Lamar University online program has provided me has changed my life. Obtaining a master's degree has been a goal of mine for years. Since achieving this goal, my professional outlook has expanded beyond anything that I could have imagined. Upon graduation, my immediate goal was to obtain a position as an assistant principal. Now that I am currently serving in that role, my aspirations for what I can achieve in my career and accomplish has reached new heights. I not only desire to one day serve as a campus principal, but possibly a superintendent or college professor.

I have personally developed a confidence that I didn’t have before obtaining my degree. I feel like I have a greater influence within my school community that can promote growth and excellence among all. My Lamar Univeristy degree has helped me be the role model and example that my children deserve. I have shown them that through hard work, discipline, and perseverance, you can achieve any goal that you set out to accomplish.

What was your single biggest takeaway from the program?

The single biggest takeaway from the program is the assurance that I have in knowing that I have been adequately prepared through the Lamar University online program in serving my students, teachers, parents, and community as an effective educational leader that fosters a growth mindset and perseverance for achieving excellence and making a difference in education.

How much time per week did you spend on your studies?

I spent 15-20 hours per week on my studies.

Describe how having an online option made a degree more accessible for you.

Having an online option in furthering my education has made earning a degree more accessible for me. I am a wife and mother with three beautiful children. At the time that I started my degree, I was a full-time educator, so attending graduate classes in a traditional sense was not an option for me. The Lamar University online program provided me with the flexibility to set my own schedule for study and work in a way as to not interfere with my job and family life.

What was one of the biggest challenges during the program, and how did you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges during the program was undergoing two pregnancies while pursuing my master’s degree. I started with Lamar in the summer of 2014. At that time, I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with my daughter. I was determined not to let this deter me from starting. Once I completed the summer term, I decided to postpone the program for the fall semester while I adjusted to giving birth and becoming a mother for the second time. My determination would not let life get in the way or discontinue my goal of earning a master’s degree. So, I continued on with the program the following spring. Lo and behold, that summer I discovered that I was pregnant again. I could have let this devastate me and give up on all that I had worked for. However, my goal was bigger than my fear of the unknown. From there, I did what I needed to do to put forth my best effort and complete my coursework. My son was born the week before my final class began. Even then, I didn't give up, and now I am a graduate of Lamar University’s Class of 2016.

Why did you choose to earn your advanced degree from Lamar University?

I chose to earn my advanced degree from Lamar University because it provided just the right formula for what I was seeking in a higher-education institution:

Affordability + Flexibility (Online Programs) + High Quality Education = Lamar University.

How did you hear about the online degree programs at Lamar University?

I first become aware of the Lamar University online degree programs several years ago from a colleague who was enrolled in the M.Ed. in Educational Administration program. At that time, I knew that I would one day want to further my education and career, so Lamar was always an option.

What advice would you give to a prospective student who is considering this program?

To the prospective student: Lamar University is a school that offers multiple degree programs to help students achieve whatever is desired to advance their career. Choose a major that interest you and become familiar with the courses that are required for that degree. This will provide you with an understanding of what topics to expect.

What helped you get through the program the most? What helped you make it to the finish line?

Pursuing a graduate degree while working full-time and being a wife and mother is not an easy task. In order to get through the program and not become discouraged or stressed, I frequently had to remind myself of my purpose of obtaining a master’s degree. I had come to a place in my career where I wanted to grow as a leader and servant to others. In education, to reach beyond the scope of a classroom teacher, a graduate degree is required in most cases. So, I kept that focus in the forefront of my perseverance in completing the program even through all of my obstacles. However, when it seemed a if I was beginning to fail in my effort to continue, I remembered my ultimate reason: to show my children that no matter what challenges you may face and at any point in your life, you can be whomever you want to be and accomplish anything that you set your mind to and work hard for. In completing the program, I am able to reach new and higher heights in my career and provide more choices in life for my family. That’s what helped me cross the finish line of achievement.

Describe your family's thoughts and feelings about you earning your degree.

My family is very proud of me for what I have accomplished through Lamar University. I am the first person in my family to obtain a college degree at the graduate level. On May 21, 2016, my husband, three children, and several family members all traveled to Beaumont to celebrate my graduation. After the ceremony, my oldest son hugged me tight and shared with me how proud he was to have me as a mom and thankful that he was able to see me walk the stage and receive my diploma. Having him express those feelings meant the world to me. Also, through my accomplishment, my husband has now begun to pursue his master’s degree and strive for new opportunities in his career. My efforts have become contagious in my household and have caused everyone to desire to achieve more in life.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

If I could do it all over again, I would have started the Lamar University online program sooner. I have grown so much as a leader and person from my experience in pursuing an advanced degree that I have developed a newfound confidence and joy in my life. As a result, I am enjoying my new role as an Elementary Assistant Principal and the positive influence that I have in my school community. I am now able to instill a growth mindset in others and help them develop as educational leaders so that they can empower students to foster a love of learning and strive for success in all that they do.

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